Drive-In Saturday Night #5: MALIBU BEACH (Crown-International 1978) & VAN NUYS BOULEVARD (Crown-International 1979)

The kids are back in school, the days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. Yes, my friends, summer’s almost over, but before it ends, let’s take one more trip to the drive-in and enjoy a pair of Crown-International Exploitation classics. Crown was responsible for a slew of “teen sex” drive-in flicks  in the 70’s and early 80’s. You know the type: the “teens” are all over 21, and the “sex” consists mainly of topless babes and some heavy necking!

Our first feature, 1978’s MALIBU BEACH, is the quintessential Crown-International “teen sex” romp. School’s out, and all the hardbodied California kids head to said beach for some frolicking in the sand and surf. Pretty Dina gets a summer job as a lifeguard, and meets handsome football hunk Bobby. A leather jacket wearing musclehead named Dugan tries to get between them, but we all know he’s got no shot! And that’s about it for plot in this harmless but likable little effort – nothing really happens, but it’s a fun way to kill an hour and a half, and good for a few chuckles along the way.

We get all your basic stereotypes (like nerdy rich kid Claude and hot’n’horny Gloriana), a pair of lunkheaded cops, lots of bouncing boobs, pot smoking, beer drinking, hell raising, and a dog that likes to steals bikini tops, all set to a generic rock score. We even get a silly little JAWS parody thrown in at the end for good measure! True, it doesn’t sound like much (and really, it isn’t), but MALIBU BEACH has a certain charm about it, and I liked it a lot. It’s shot well, the cast is appealing, and I found myself laughing out loud at some of the shenanigans going on. What more do you want from a drive-in flick, anyway?

The cast is made up of mostly unknowns, with a few exceptions. Pretty Kim Lankford, best known as Ginger on the prime time soap KNOTS LANDING, plays pretty Dina. James Daughton (Bobby) challenged Fonzie to “jump the shark” in that infamous episode of HAPPY DAYS that coined the infamous phrase, but will forever be remembered as Greg Marmalade, arch enemy of the Deltas in NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE! And Stephen Oliver, who plays the creep Dugan, played creep Lee Webber on the hit series PEYTON PLACE, and was typecast as a creepy biker in films like ANGELS FROM HELL, the cult classic WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS , and Russ Meyer’s MOTORPSYCHO.

Now let’s all head to the snack bar before our second feature:

Got all your snacks and soft drinks? Good, let’s look at our next film, 1979’s VAN NUYS BLVD…

…this one set in the 70’s milieu of aimlessly cruising up and down the main drag. Makes me nostalgic for cruising the Ave in my Chevy Nova back in the day; it’s just not the same in a Hyundai! But I digress. Like MALIBU BEACH, the plot of VAN NUYS BLVD is skimpier than the carhop’s uniforms. Country boy Bobby decides to jump in his customized van and head to where the action is, namely cruising up and down Van Nuys Blvd. He meets gorgeous van driver Moon, and they engage in a running battle of the sexes. They’re both competitive, trying to outdo each other, so you know by the end they’ll be madly in love, because that’s how these things work!

In between, we get some comic set pieces, including a pig loose on the beach, and the plight of skeezy Officer Zass, the scourge of the cruisers. We also get some disco dancing, with the Kansas City Glitter Girls doing a dance number called “Boogie Down the Boulevard”, a silly but entertaining bit of filler. There’s hot rods and muscle cars, an overaged cruiser with an impressive moustache named Chooch, lots of T-N-A, and smutty jokes that managed to make me laugh despite myself. It’s all goofy, trivial nonsense, but well done far as these exploitation flicks go.

Director William Sachs was also responsible for one of Crown-International’s best known films, 1980’s GALAXINA, starring the doomed Playmate Dorothy Stratton (whose story was filmed as Bob Fosse’s STAR 80). Another ex-Playmate, Cynthia Wood, plays Moon, while costar Bill Adler (Bobby) was a Crown International regular (THE POM POM GIRLS, THE VAN  ) who’s also in Jack Hill’s SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. You probably won’t recognize anyone else in the cast unless you’re an Exploitation fan: Tara Strohmeier (carhop Wanda, who winds up with Chooch) appeared in such fare as THE STUDENT TEACHERS, CANDY STRIPE NURSES, COVER GIRL MODELS, THE GREAT TEXAS DYNAMITE CHASE, and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD (and plays horny Gloriana in MALIBU BEACH).

The Drive-In’s now closed for the season, as we’re getting ready to hunker down for the winter months. Hopefully, we will reopen next spring to take a look at more Exploitation delights. Don’t forget to remove the speakers from your windows before driving off, and ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

Halloween Havoc!: WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (Fanfare Corporation 1971)

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I love horror movies. I love biker flicks, too. Co-writers David Kauffman and Michel Levesque (who also directed) put the two together and came up with WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, an exploitation mash-up that’s hard to resist. I’m surprised it took so long for someone to combine the two genres. Filmmakers like Roger Corman and Al Adamson must’ve kicked themselves for not thinking of it first!

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What starts off like a typical biker movie, with a hard-partying gang called The Devil’s Advocates delivering a brutal beatdown to some rednecks who ran one of them off the road, veers into terror territory when the club stumble upon an old church out  in the desert. Only this church has a Satanic symbol in place of a steeple. Bad mojo ahead, guys!  Monks in hooded robes surround them and offer bread and wine (“Free wine, man!”) The cult leader, named One (as in The One) plucks a hair from the leader’s chick Helen’s head. Soon the bikers drift off to slumberland, and One and his cult sacrifice a black cat, summon Helen, and partake in a ritual that has her dancing naked with a snake, about to become “the bride of Satan”. Soon Helen becomes a werewolf and starts picking off the gang members.

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The cast isn’t very well known, but does include some interesting actors. Club leader Adam is played by Stephen Oliver, best known for his stint on 60’s primetime soap PEYTON PLACE. D.J. Anderson (Helen), also known as Donna Anders, had a brief career in movies (COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE, DREAM NO EVIL). Character actor Severn Darden (One) was the preacher in Vanishing Point and played in the final two PLANET OF THE APES films. Barry McGuire (Scarf) was a singer who scored big with the protest hit “Eve of Destruction”. Billy Gray (Scarf) gained fame as a child star, costring in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, and as Bud on TV’s FATHER KNOWS BEST. And Deuce Berry (the card reading Tarot), after appearing in RUN ANGEL RUN and THE VELEVT VAMPIRE, was off the screen for 33 years before returning as Jesus (under the name Gene Shane) in THE COPPER SCROLL OF MARY MAGDELENE!

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The movie features a great rock score by Don Gere, which is available on Amazon (and worth picking up). Director Michel Levesque worked with both Roger Corman and Russ Meyer as a production and set designer. He only has two directorial features to his credit, this one and the “Women in Prison” exploiter SWEET SUGAR. I’ll be on the hunt for that one soon. If it’s anything like WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, it’s gotta be worth watching!

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